Three members of my family died this week, exactly 100 years ago. Arabella, Frank and Florence Porter all died of the Spanish flu within a few days of each other, leaving the rest of the family bewildered. My grandfather, Luther also became ill and went into a coma and shouldn’t have survived. He told afterwards of how he believed he’d died, but during that time in a coma he went to heaven and met Jesus Christ who said that it was not his time, that he had work to do and that he should be sent back. I’m very pleased about that, otherwise I would not be alive today!!
Those few days in March 1915 were life-changing for my grandfather. He was not quite 11 years old. He’d had a profound experience of Christ and would never be the same again. And yet he awoke from that divine encounter to discover his mother, brother and sister had all died. Imagine the mixed emotions. The sense of wonder and woe. Elation and devastation.
I remember Grandpa Luther well. He had a wonderful smile, a deep and strong faith in Christ and a great love for people. He brought transformation to many lives. He was an optimist, and yet a realist, in that he knew that life was rarely straightforward. He would often describe it in terms of joys and sorrows. His favourite phrase was ‘sunshine and showers’. I suspect those fateful days of March 1915 shaped that perspective.
Grandpa Luther of course is right. We can sometimes naively think that if life isn’t all good, then it’s bad. Or when something is difficult or painful or stretching then something is wrong. But the reality is that life is normally full of the good and the not-so-good, all at the same time. And sometimes there are even seasons when things are especially tough. No-one is promised an easy life. In fact if we’re seeking to be people who make a difference, bringing light into darkness, then life is rarely going to be straightforward!
Although life this side of heaven in a mixture of sunshine and showers we’re not meant to focus on the showers otherwise we get depressed and want to give up. Instead Jesus helpfully tells us to have a different outlook – to ‘seek the kingdom’ (Matthew 6:33). In God’s kingdom relationships are right, freedom reigns, love is shared and contentedness experienced (Romans 14:17). Sounds like sunshine to me!
If your life seems to be dominated by dark clouds, hang in there, it won’t last forever. Lift your head and look for the sun breaking through. It’s no coincidence that Christ is prophetically described in Malachi 4:2 as the ‘Sun of righteousness’. Allow his warmth to comfort and refresh you so you can rise above your troubles and instead continue to impact your community with joy and grace.
Yes. May I add that, if you’re struggling to lift your head because everything seems to be showers and no sunshine, do consider going to see your GP. Check out the MIND website, which is full of useful information. And there’s a great book written by an NHS psychiatrist, Chris Williams, called ‘I’m not supposed to feel like this’ – it is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT is a recognised, evidence-based therapy for problems such as low mood, anxiety and phobias), and illustrated with biblical references and examples. There’s even a section for church leaders…
Warm and helpful